Disclaimer: the characters and places you recognise are not mine, they belong to Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer and other such folk.

Author's note: And so it begins, again. We last saw Jack Sparrow marooned on his desert island, the
Black Pearl sailing away into the distance. We pick up his tale there, as he embarks on ten years without his ship - with clipped wings. As ever, critique and comments much appreciated.

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Jack Sparrow sat gazing out to sea, the salt drying on his hair, long after the black sails had disappeared beyond the horizon. Smears of dark kohl ran down his cheeks, and his sword belt lay disregarded on the sand by his side. The sun began to set, sending shafts of golden light across the water, and finally Jack moved.

He stood, slowly, his limbs protesting, and turned his back to the ocean. The rational part of Jack's mind knew that he had to find some sort of shelter, or at the least build a fire, before night fell. But the rest of him - most of him - was a raging, empty hole. For nearly twenty years, the Black Pearl had been a part of Jack Sparrow's life. She had been more than that. She had been his life, his family, his home. And now, marooned on a tiny spit of sand in the Caribbean Sea, he faced a life without her. He refused to countenance the possibility of death, refused to contemplate using his single shot on himself. That shot was for the man who had sailed away with the Pearl.

"You'll bloody well pay for this, Barbossa," Jack muttered to himself, as he headed towards the belt of palm trees that grew in the centre of the islet. "Should never have trusted the bastard," he went on, speaking aloud for the company of his own voice. "Must've been some other sailors in Tortuga I could have chosen. Must've been." He stomped extra hard with his booted foot as he spoke, out of anger and frustration, and paused. What had that sound been?

Jack turned, and jumped experimentally. There it was again, a hollow echo.

"Sand," he told himself, "does not sound like that."

He walked up and down a small strip of ground, stamping. There was a good five yards of hollowness, where the sand felt bouncier under his feet.

Jack dropped to his knees and began to push sand away, digging with his hands. His hair, stiff with salt, hung down and threatened to obscure his vision, and he pushed it away and kept digging.

In less than a minute, he was rewarded with the sight of dark wooden planking, sand packed in the joins between planks. For the first time since that morning, when the sun had risen over the dark sails of the Black Pearl, Jack smiled. He pushed more sand away, and shortly found what he had been searching for - an iron ring set into the planks. Standing up, he bent over and pulled.

The trapdoor, for that was what it was, opened quite easily, and Jack peered down into a dark hole in the ground. He sniffed. Something smelt good, enticing, rather like a Tortuga tavern. He took off his hat and laid it down on the ground before descending the wooden steps carefully. Enough light slanted down still into the hole to let him investigate quickly. There was flint and tinder, both dry, near the steps, and a bundle of tallow candles too, and soon Jack had a candle lit.

He let out a low whistle, his eyes glimmering with pleasure in the flickering light. The walls of the hole were lined with rough shelves, and the shelves stocked with bottle after bottle of tawny liquid. Rum. Lots and lots of rum. On the floor there were barrels of the stuff. Jack took a bottle from a shelf, pulled the cork out with his teeth whilst holding the candle with his other hand, and drank.

"Good rum, too," he commented.

Putting the candle in a holder and leaving it on the floor, he took another couple of bottles and quickly climbed the steps to put them next to his hat. Another survey of the cellar revealed a couple of sandy blankets, and he brought those up too, along with the flint and tinder, before blowing out the candle, climbing out of the hole and closing the trapdoor.

Dusk was falling swiftly now, the stars coming out overhead. Jack gathered some bits of driftwood and fallen palm leaves and made a small fire on the beach. Wrapping himself in the blankets, he picked up his first bottle of rum and swallowed another mouthful, the fiery sweetness rolling down his throat and into his stomach. He raised the bottle to the dark, distant horizon.

"To you, my Pearl," he said, into the darkness. "I'll come and find you, soon as I can."

And then, Jack Sparrow proceeded to get satisfyingly, mind-numbingly drunk.

He spent most of the night and all the next day lying in a sozzled, languid stupor on the beach. He did not notice that his face and hands were burning in the sun, or that his stomach was empty of anything except alcohol. The rum erased most of his awareness of the world around him, and lessened the dull ache in his heart.

During the second night, when the three bottles were all empty, sobriety returned. Jack's head was thumping when he finally woke and tried sitting up, and his face was smarting from sunburn. The fire had long since gone out, and it was cold.

He picked up one of the discarded blankets and put it around his shoulders again. Wrapping his arms around his knees, Jack sat and gazed into the night.

When morning came, he went back to the cellar in the ground and investigated it a little further. There were some salted fish and hard biscuits along with the rum, he found, and together with a fresh bottle of the latter he made a reasonable meal. But there was nothing else to help him escape from the island, and he spent the morning under a palm tree, leaning his head against the trunk and willing it to stop throbbing. He took out his pistol, too; the first time checking the single shot and the second time letting his thumb caress the safety catch. But he put it away without lifting it to his temple. That shot was not for him.

Afternoon was two hours old by the sun when Jack saw the sails. They were grubby white canvas, and they were growing quickly larger as they came closer to the island. Soon he could see that the ship was a small, fast sloop with about ten men on deck, and she was beating her way directly to Jack's island.

The sloop dropped her anchor maybe an hour later, a short way offshore, and her crew lowered a boat. Shortly it was being paddled to shore. Jack stood up, despite his head protesting vehemently, and buckled on his swordbelt.

The little boat navigated its way through the shallow shoals and slid to a halt on the sandy beach. Men jumped out and pulled it well up on to shore, and it was only then that they saw Jack, standing waiting for them.

Instantly three cutlasses were drawn, and the men - tanned, burly and tough - approached him.

"Gentlemen," said Jack, grinning at them.

"How'd you get 'ere?" the shortest of the men demanded, his voice gruff. "Ain't nobody what knows about this island save us."

"Swam," Jack said.

"From where?" the man said. "Long way from anywhere else."

"My ship," explained Jack.

"You've been marooned?" one of the other men asked, lowering his sword a little.

"In a manner of speaking, aye," Jack agreed.

"What are ye?" the first man questioned, his tone suspicious. His companions laughed.

"Look at 'im, Tom. Couldn't be anything other than a pirate. Hardly goin' to be Navy, like that, is 'e?"

"Pirate it is," Jack said. "Captain Jack Sparrow, very much at your service - provided you'll take me off this bloody island."

A shout came from the trapdoor in the sand. "Someone's been at the cache!"

"That'll be me," Jack said. "Good rum. S'pose you'll be runners of the heavenly elixir, would you?"

"Eh?" said the man addressed as Tom.

"You're rum-runners?" Jack clarified.

"We make a livin' selling rum, aye," Tom said.

"Not so different from meself, then," Jack said cheerfully. "Pirates, smugglers, same line of business, to my mind. So you'll be glad to help a fellow buccaneer, I'd guess?" On the beach, another man held up the three empty bottles. Tom looked distinctly displeased, and Jack gave him his best smile.

"I'll pay for it, mate. Just get me off this island. I've a ship to find and a score to settle, and I don't fancy wasting the rest of my days sitting here drinking rum. Not that it's not exceptionally nice rum, mind."

"Jack Sparrow, you said?" the third man asked.

"Captain Jack Sparrow," Jack confirmed.

"I've heard of you," the man said. "You and your ship - the Black Diamond, or some-such name?"

"The Black Pearl," Jack corrected him.

"That's her. One o' the fastest ships in the Caribbean, ain't she?"

Jack nodded. "The fastest, mate." He looked past the men, out to sea. "The fastest."

"And you're the one what escaped the East India Company, and captured four navy vessels at once, and took half the Frenchies' new cargo of weapons from under their noses, right?"

"That'd be right," Jack agreed.

"Where would you want to be going, Cap'n?" the smuggler asked.

"Anywhere," Jack said, waving a hand in the air vaguely. "Leastways ... not Tortuga. I've a mind to keep a low profile, for a bit. Wherever you're going."

The three men exchanged glances and spoke together quickly in low voices. Finally, they turned back to Jack.

"We'll take you. But you'll work the passage, and we'd not say no to any ... valuables ... you happen to have on your person."

Jack flicked a braid at them. "Amber, silver, turquoise," he said. "You can have some of these. Just get me off this bloody island - savvy?"

"Deal." Tom held out a hand, and Jack shook it.

"We have an accord," he said.

He helped the rum-runners load up their boat with barrels and bottles, and before dusk Jack Sparrow was aboard their sleek sloop, watching the outline of the island disappear astern. He had escaped a long, lonely death, and his aim now was to regain his ship and his crew. Nothing else mattered, save the Black Pearl.

Little did Jack know how long his journey was to be.